Category Archives: Disaster Assistance

Support the emergency response and recovery from Hurricane Florence

God is our refuge and strength
Therefore, we will not fear … though the waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble. —Psalm 46

The path of Hurricane Florence.Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) urges your support for those affected by Hurricane Florence. PDA is delivering immediate aid to those impacted by the storm on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. Initial assessment suggests catastrophic destruction, but the full scope of the damage will not be known for many months.

The storm’s path is cutting across areas still recovering from Hurricane Matthew (2016). While these winds and waters have meant loss and destruction, the work of PDA might become, as the psalmist says, “a river whose streams make glad the city of God.”

PDA is deploying teams to affected presbyteries to meet with Presbyterian and community leadership to assist in coordinating relief efforts and mucking out homes and churches. After initial needs are addressed, PDA will remain — providing spiritual and emotional care and long-term recovery to address the unmet needs of those impacted. Through your prayerful gifts, we draw hope out of the chaos.

The needs for the response are great. God’s people are once again called on to stand in the “GAP” — Give. Act. Pray.

Give: Financial support for relief efforts can be designated to DR000169, which supports the church’s response to hurricanes impacting the U.S. Gifts can be made online, by phone at (800) 872-3283, or by check, which can be mailed to Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), P.O. Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700.

Act: Learn how you and your congregation can help families who have lost everything in the devastation. Stay informed and like us on Facebook, download resources and share updates with your congregation.

Pray: God of our life, whose presence sustains us in every circumstance, in the aftermath of storm and distress, we welcome the restoring power of your love and compassion. We open our hearts in sorrow, gratitude and hope: that those who have been spared nature’s fury as well as those whose lives are changed forever by ravages of wind and water may find solace, sustenance and strength in the days of recovery and reflection that come.

We are thankful for the grace of days of preparation as Hurricane Florence approached; for the counsel of experts and the generous collaboration of so many communities, that in the face of the storm kept many out of harm’s way and lessened the effects of wind and water on others.

At the same time, we open ourselves to the stories of those for whom this storm was not a near miss: communities deeply affected, some still struggling to recover from Hurricane Matthew, whose livelihood, homes and stability have been destroyed. We lift our voices in sorrow and compassion for families who have lost homes or livelihood.

We ask for sustaining courage for those who are suffering; wisdom and diligence among agencies and individuals assessing damage and directing relief efforts; and for generosity to flow as powerfully as rivers and streams, as we, your people, respond to the deep human needs emerging in the wake of the storm.

In these days of relief, assessment and response, open our eyes, our hearts and our hands to the needs of your children and the movements of your Spirit, who flows in us like the river whose streams make glad the city of God, and the hearts of all who dwell in it, and in You.

In the name of Christ the Healer we pray. Amen.

Rev. Dr. Laurie Ann Kraus, director
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico continue long road to recovery one year after hurricanes

Rebuilding process is slow, but resilience is strong

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — It’s been a year since a trio of hurricanes wreaked havoc on Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, leaving a path of destruction, major power outages and many people without homes. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in quick succession, pummeled their targets over several days late last summer.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Red Cross and other disaster recovery organizations, including Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA), have made strides in the past 12 months, but much work remains.

Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath as seen in Port Aransas, Texas. (Photo by Rick Jones)

In Texas, work continues to repair homes and businesses damaged by Harvey’s wrath. Last fall, a PDA delegation visited presbyteries and churches impacted by the storm, including the First Presbyterian Church in Dickinson.

Harvey left several feet of water in the church and parked an ice chest and boat at the church door. While the cleanup has been long and difficult, Pastor Kathy Sebring says it’s also been a blessing.

“We’ve had challenges and still do, but it’s actually presented an opportunity of rebirth for us,” said Sebring. “Before Harvey hit, we were a very small congregation and had no new members. Harvey came and washed all of that away.”

For the first two Sundays after Harvey, the congregation worshipped outdoors and, according to Sebring, it drew people in who were looking for help and a church.

Sebring says a church in West Virginia provided money for new chairs and donated a baby grand piano. Another church provided hymnals and Bibles.

“We’ve had six new members since April and one adult baptism. Prior to the hurricane, we hadn’t seen anyone join the church in over five years and there hadn’t been a baptism in 10 years,” she said. “Members were resistant to reaching out, thinking they weren’t big or strong enough. Now it’s not even in their vocabulary. God gives us the wherewithal to do it. This congregation is so on fire. The hurricane was a terrible thing but probably the biggest blessing that God could have given to us.”

Workers unload food and other supplies at Mision Peniel in Immokalee, Florida. (Photo courtesy of Mision Peniel)

Florida continues the recovery, not only from Irma but from previous hurricanes.

“It’s been slow. Around the state, we have several long-term recovery groups that have formed in the wake of Irma,” said Kathy Broyard with Florida Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Network (FLAPDAN.) “Volunteers are coming, but not as many as we would like. The number of workers in Florida is down as many headed to Texas and Puerto Rico after Harvey and Maria. We’re not complaining. Things are moving.”

Broyard says there are many homes still covered in blue tarps and recovery groups are working to keep things dry until volunteers can arrive to help make repairs.

“There are a few churches that are planning mission trips here,” she said. “In Monroe County, in the Keys, they are moving ahead quickly to provide volunteer housing. We’re trying to get the word out that we still need help here. Folks who have been impacted are fearful of the next storm that comes through.”

Damage from Hurricane Maria can still be seen some 60 days later along the western coast of Puerto Rico in the town of Mayaguez. (Photo by Rick Jones)

In Puerto Rico, most power has been restored across the island, but there are still areas where power doesn’t last long. From the sky, blue tarps can be seen dotted across the communities, still waiting for repairs. The government this week released new information on the death toll from Maria, saying nearly 3,000 people died as a result of the storm.

“From what we’ve seen and heard, a lot of people are tired. They feel that they haven’t had a lot of time to rest or to take care of themselves,” said the Rev. Edwin González-Castillo, PDA consultant working on Puerto Rico’s recovery. “I still hear about people needing beds, refrigerators and basic necessities. Power is going out almost weekly in different areas which impacts stoves, microwaves or refrigerators.”

González-Castillo says it puts a lot of pressure on the churches. Many pastors, who are part time and holding down other jobs, find themselves working around the clock to meet the needs of their members.

Families are still living in rough conditions and are concerned about when the next storm will hit.

“I’ve talked with one family that got new beds, but their roof still leaks. When it rains, their beds get damaged, and they must be replaced again,” said González-Castillo. “There’s that moment where you can’t handle it anymore and it’s created a desperate situation for families, the economy, government, and schools.”

To make matters worse, González-Castillo says trailers loaded with spoiled food and supplies have been found that were never delivered. Hundreds of bodies have never been claimed either because families have left the island or can’t afford to bury them.

Despite the slow recovery, González-Castillo says Presbyterian churches are stronger and more organized to meet the needs of their congregations. Volunteer groups continue to come in and assist with home repairs. Next month, PDA will send another delegation to the region to visit with churches and discuss future support efforts.

“PDA has been working in partnership with our Presbyterian sisters and brothers in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico in the initial response and now in the long-term recovery,” says Jim Kirk, associate for disaster response in the U.S. “As a result of the generosity of our denomination, PDA will be able to support the ongoing recovery. It is hoped that through additional gifts that support can last even longer.”

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Click here to read PDA’s response to the hurricanes over the last year.

To support hurricane recovery efforts, click here. You’ll be taken to the PC(USA) website to donate securely and quickly.

If you prefer to mail a check (please write “DR000194” on the memo line), you may send it to:
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
P.O. Box 643700
Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700

You may also call 800-872-3283 Monday Through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Eastern time), and donate by phone.


You may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

Presbyterian churches reach out to communities affected by California wildfires

Thousands of acres burned, homes and businesses destroyed as flames spread

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

Smoke from the Thomas Fire obscures the midday sun in Upper Ojai, California. (Photo by Tim Nafzinger)

LOUISVILLE — It’s been a week since wildfires broke out in southern California and the fires are still raging out of control. There are currently six separate wildfires burning. The Thomas fire, which started in Ventura County, is the worst of the six and is now the fifth-largest wildfire in California history, according to fire officials. Approximately 50,000 additional acres burned on Sunday in the area. Low humidity, accompanied by the Santa Ana winds are making matters worse.

“There are a wide range of problems. There’s still the issue of making sure everyone is safe, especially those in the evacuation zones,” said Katie Wiebe, executive director of the Institute for Congregational Trauma and Growth, in the Presbytery of Santa Barbara. “It has impacted six churches and we have members and staff that are in evacuation zones or affected by smoke and ash.”

Wiebe says some church members have lost homes and there is a high need for counselors to help with insurance issues and assessing needs.

“The urgency has expanded. The area is familiar with fires but nothing to this extent, so it has been overwhelming for people” she said. “First Presbyterian Church of Santa Barbara has been keeping its pre-school open because some of the children’s parents are first responders or are actively involved in supporting relief efforts such as counseling centers or the Red Cross.”

More than 5,500 firefighters from California and surrounding states have been battling the blazes.  Emergency officials report as many as 230,000 acres have burned and more than 800 structures have been destroyed or damaged by the fast-spreading flames.  At last count, authorities say at least 200,000 residents have been forced to evacuate.

Jeff Holland pastors the Ojai Presbyterian Church located in the middle of the Thomas fire area.

“We were in a mandatory evacuation zone until Saturday evening and then were allowed to return. We held services on Sunday,” he said. “For the most part, the congregation has fared well. We have a large youth group and many of their families are not involved in church. Some of them lost their homes so we have started a fund to help.”

Holland says the air quality has been “horrific” and the people have been stressed.

“We had about half of our normal attendance on Sunday. A lot of families are still evacuated or haven’t come back yet because of air quality, but the feel of the services was good,” he said. “People really wanted to come together and see how they could respond as a faith community. The former county fire chief is a member of our congregation and he briefed us on what was going on and everyone was appreciative.”

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has been in constant contact with the three impacted presbyteries; San Fernando, Pacific and Santa Barbara, providing initial grants for emergency needs.

“We’ve talked about deployment in our initial conference calls and it is still on the table, but not at this time,” said Jim Kirk, PDA’s associate for national disaster response. “Things are still unfolding and our being there would just add one more car to the road and one more hotel room taken out of inventory.”

Kirk says PDA is prepared to deploy a National Response Team if needed to consult with the presbyteries including assessment, emotional and spiritual care support.

Wiebe says church leaders are tired, but still working to reach and meet the needs of their congregations.

“Pastors are holding up as well as can be expected. There’s a lot of comradery and genuine spirit of helpfulness,” she said. “Some pastors are in an evacuation zone and so they’re trying to keep in touch with everyone in the midst of assessing needs.”

Holland says prayers are still needed for everyone involved.

“The fire went from just 50 acres to 10,000 acres in one night,” he said. “My wife works at a hospital and the flames reached the parking lot. She described it as an Armageddon-type scene because the 60 mile-an-hour winds were pushing the flames into town.”

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Those interested in making contributions to assist those impacted by the wildfires can click here.

If you prefer to mail a check (please write DR000165 on the memo line), you may send it to:
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
P.O. Box 643700
Pittsburg, PA 15264-3700

You may also call Monday Through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (EDT), at 1-800-872-3283 and donate by phone.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is able to respond quickly to emergencies because of gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing.


Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

PC(USA) Disaster Response

California churches and presbyteries work to help those affected by wildfires

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

Northern California’s wine country has received the brunt of the massive wildfires that continue to burn out of control. More than 20 people are known to have died in the fires, while at least 285 remain missing. Authorities report 3,500 structures have been destroyed and over 170,000 acres burned.

Presbyterian Church leaders react to mass shooting in Las Vegas

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

While authorities try to determine what led 64-year-old Stephen Paddock to open fire on a crowd of people in Las Vegas Sunday night, Presbyterian Church leaders and pastors are reaching out to congregations and those impacted by the tragedy.

Presbytery leader in Puerto Rico reports on damage from Hurricane Maria

by Gregg Brekke | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Edwin González-Castillo, Stated Clerk of the San Juan Presbytery in Puerto Rico, says the biggest challenge he is facing in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria is communications. Attempting to reach and coordinate relief efforts across the island has been hampered by downed communication lines outside of San Juan, infrastructure damage due to flooding and ongoing concerns about fuel shortages.

Presbyterian ministries issue statement on 2018 refugee admissions

by Gregg Brekke | Presbyterian News Service

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) today, in conjunction with the Office of the Stated Clerk, issued a statement regarding reports the Trump Administration is considering reducing refugee admissions to 50,000 in 2018, the lowest level since passage of the Refugee Act of 1980.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance to help with earthquake recovery efforts in Mexico

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

As rescue crews continue to dig for survivors in the latest earthquake in Mexico, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is connecting with ecumenical partners to support recovery efforts and assist in developing long-term response plans. Tuesday’s quake, which registered 7.1 on the Richter Scale, was the second to strike the region in less than two weeks, causing buildings and houses to collapse, killing or trapping hundreds.

 

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance: Hurricane Harvey

hurricane harvey

Give today to help Presbyterian Disaster Assistance bring hope & healing to Texas families impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) is in touch with presbyteries affected areas of Texas to offer assistance. We are standing by with resources and National Response Team members ready to deploy upon invitation and when it is safe to do so.

For those who wish to support PDA’s emergency response and recovery efforts, gifts can be designated to DR000169-Harvey. We need your help. Please give generously.

If you prefer to mail a check, you may send it to:

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
PO Box 643700
Pittsburgh, PA, 15264-3700

You may also call us Monday through Friday8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (EST), at 1-800-872-3283 and donate by phone. For updates, please go to pda.pcusa.org.

Please join us in praying for courage for those who are suffering; wisdom and diligence among agencies and individuals assessing damage and directing relief efforts; and for generosity to flow as powerfully as rivers and streams, as we respond to the deep human needs left in the wake of the storm.

Rev. Dr. Laurie Ann Kraus
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

Respond to the famine in South Sudan

From Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

Stand with South Sudan

Nationwide famine and widespread violence with ethnic targeting in the world’s youngest country is resulting in the quiet death of South Sudan, and we are seeing it covered in very few news stories. The devastation is great. We must act now. Six million of our South Sudanese siblings, half of the country’s population, are struggling to find food and clean water, and 4 million have been displaced because of this complex disaster.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) is funding large-scale emergency relief projects for South Sudanese displaced people and refugees, working through Presbyterian Relief and Development Agency, the humanitarian arm of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS). In addition to emergency relief projects, PDA is working to support livelihood and food security, peacebuilding and education for civil society. The ministries supported by the Peace & Global Witness Offering are providing ongoing advocacy and aid to those working for peace.

“We need your prayers and support in all ways, including advocacy,” said the Rev. Peter Gai Lual, PCOSS moderator. “It gives us strength and hope that we are standing as Christians together until we have peace.”

The needs for the response are great. God’s people are once again called on to stand in the “GAP”—Give. Act. Pray.

GIVE:

Financial support for famine relief efforts may be designated to DR000042. Gifts to support ongoing peacebuilding efforts may be designated to PG999999. Gifts may be made online, by phone at (800) 872-3283, or by check, which may be mailed to:

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
P.O. Box 643700
Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700

ACT:

  • Download and use the bulletin insert,
  • Make sure your congregation is planning to receive the Peace & Global Witness Offering this
  • World Communion Sunday (Oct. 1). Learn more, and download resources.
  • Learn how you and your congregation can help and stay informed by liking us on Facebook, as well as downloading resources and sharing updates with your congregation.
  • Write to members of Congress and the secretary of state to share your concern about the crisis in South Sudan. Find resources online from the Office of Public Witness.

PRAY:

That in the heartbreak of all that has been lost by the people of South Sudan, our God of peace will, as Psalm 147 says, “Heal their broken hearts and bind up their wounds.” That the people will experience reconciliation and have courage to participate in peacebuilding, and that the government and those who are seeking to make a difference will be wise in their efforts to put an end to violence, allowing survivors to return to their homes, their fields and cattle, and their livelihoods. Click here for a prayer for South Sudan by the Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus, PDA coordinator.

Disaster Relief Project – 2017

– From Diane Kirkpatrick, Project Coordinator, Mid Kentucky Presbytery

Mid Kentucky Presbytery is again organizing a PDA disaster relief kit project to assist our neighbors in need.  Our goal is to assemble 1,000 + hygiene kits.  We invite the churches in southern Indiana to join us.

Last year’s project was a smashing success with enthusiastic evaluations asking that we do this good work again.  In 2017 we have found new partners – Proctor and Gamble toothbrushes thanks to the KY Dental Association, hygiene supplies from Supplies Over Seas, and the support of the National Council of Negro Women.

We are working on a free or deeply discounted van to transport the completed kits to the PDA storage facility in Arkansas. We have a volunteer to drive the van.  Should the free rental not pan out, Mid Kentucky Presbytery will cover the transportation costs. Last year we were able to delay the van’s departure to receive Indiana and a local church’s donations. This year we have a limited window for van free rental, so we need to keep to the project time frame.

We have set the project schedule to avoid Lent, Easter, and “Thunder over Louisville.” The drop off days for hygiene supplies and completed kits are Sunday, April 23, from 12:15 to 2:00 PM and Monday, April 24, from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM at Strathmoor Presbyterian Church, corner of Bardstown Road and Hawthorne Avenue (). The church’s phone is 502-451-5185.

The volunteer work day to assemble kits is Saturday, April 29, from 1:00 to 3:00 PM. Completed kits will be packed and loaded into the truck for departure on the trip to Arkansas.

We learned last year:

  • Churches can expand their effectiveness by inviting scout troops and other groups who use their buildings to donate supplies.
  • Some churches prefer to assemble hygiene kits at their own locations so more of their people can participate. This is an excellent option.
  • 500+ bars of scented soap emit a strong fragrance, and the Strathmoor preschool children and members were affected negatively by it. We ask for unscented soap in 2017.
  • Churches with preschools like teaching compassion and making a difference by collecting supplies for the hygiene kits.
  • The PCUSA web page has Presbyterian Disaster Assistance posters and information churches can download for education and inspiration.
  • Presbyterian Women do a fantastic job in promoting and working on this project.
  • Youth groups like to assemble kits and do a good job. Children too with their parents nearby.
  • The April 29 kit assembly day goes more smoothly if we know how many volunteers to expect. If your church is coming, let Strathmoor know.

At this point the most needed items are unscented bath size bars of soap in original wrappers, one gallon zip lock bags, and wash cloths. We appreciate any hygiene supply donations.

Click here to download the info sheet for the 2017 disaster relief project. Feel free to adapt it to your churches’ needs. We invite and encourage you to join us in the mission project.

Thank you.